Daily Touch of Inspirations

November 7th: How to be powerful

Ryan Holiday, The 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living

Don't trust in your reputation, money, or position, but in the strength that is yours — namely, your judgments about the things that you control. For this alone is what makes us free and unfettered, that picks us up by the neck from the depths and lifts us eye to eye with the rich and powerful. — Epictetus, Discourses, 3.26.34-35

In a scene in Steven Pressfield's classic novel about Alexander the Great, The Virtues of War, Alexander reaches a river crossing only to be confronted by a philosopher who refuses to move. "This man has conquered the world!" one of Alexander's men shouts. "What have you done?" The philosopher responds, with complete confidence, "I have conquered the need to conquer the world."

We do know that Alexander did clash with Diogenes the Cynic, a philosopher known for his rejection of what society prizes and, by extension, Alexander's self-image. Just as in Pressfield's fictional encounter, in Diogenes's real confrontation with Alexander, the philosopher was more powerful than the most powerful man in the world — because, unlike him, Diogenes had fewer wants. They were able to look each other in the eye and see who really had control over himself, who had achieved the self-mastery required for real and lasting power.

You can have that too. It just means focusing inward on acquiring power rather than outward. As Publilius Syrus, himself a former slave, put it: "Would you have a great empire? Rule over yourself!"

The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom Perseverance and Art of Living

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